Come draft day, many teams fall into the trap of drafting the best available player in the first round rather than addressing team-specific needs. Time and time again, teams select the fastest, the tallest, the strongest, or simply whoever's highest in the mock draft boards. It often seems like teams work hard to make a popular pick, rather than make the pick that would most benefit the team.
The immediate example which springs to mind is the Bears' #4 pick of running back Cedric Benson last year. With glaring needs at QB, WR, and TE, the Bears nevertheless went with a high-profile running back despite having just signed a terrific young feature back to a 4-year deal the year before.
Yes, I'm referring to Thomas Jones, the former 1st-round pick who averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 421 yards per season while wearing red and white. Since leaving the Cardinals, however, Jones has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 970 yards per season. And that production wasn't even the result of playing on a more balanced offense, as the Bucs and Bears teams that he succeeded with were as one-dimensional as they come.
Anyway, Benson would hold out during all of training camp, upset at the prospect of being a backup, and wanting more money to boot. He wound up with just 272 rushing yards and one catch for a Bears team that desperately needed a passing game. They could have gotten QB Aaron Rogers or any number of talented wideouts with that pick. It's going to hurt them even more this year when they siphon more playing time to the less-polished, less-versatile Benson.
Now Arizona hasn't really exhibited this type of foolish behavior lately, but frankly, they've had so many needs that it would have been near-impossible most years to draft high-round picks who didn't address a need. That could all change this year, as the offensive skill positions, particularly RB and WR, should be set for years to come.
The NFL, you see, rarely features blockbuster trades the way that MLB does. In-season trades are nearly extinct, and when they happen, the players involved rarely make an impact. This is because with football, players need to learn a team's particular playbook, whereas baseball plays are basically universal. Therefore, no one will give the Cardinals good value for an underachieving wide receiver like Bryant Johnson if Arizona decides to go with a marquee wideout in the early rounds. Inability to trade from excess makes addressing current needs paramount.
And that's another way that the NFL draft differs from the MLB draft. With football, you're not drafting someone who you hope helps you 3-5 years down the line. You're drafting someone to make an impact the very next season. The Cardinals don't need to think ahead and consider whether they will need to bolster their offensive line down the road. They know that they need to fix their offensive line right now.
We know that D'Brickashaw Ferguson won't be available by the 10th pick of the draft. But that doesn't mean that Arizona shouldn't draft an offensive lineman in the first round. The bottom line is that the best lineman available to the Cardinals in the second round will not be as talented as the best one available in the first round.
Would it be a tragedy for the Cards to address some of their other needs in the first round, such as tight end or weakside linebacker? Certainly not. Would it be a catastrophe if they picked some high-profile running back or wide receiver that managed to slip to pick #10? Absolutely.